Using Colored Pencils: The Brands I Use Most

As you know, colored pencil is one of my favorite mediums. Many pieces that I used to do in oil or acrylic, I now do in colored pencil instead. The detail and intensity is equal to painting, and many artists who use colored pencil actually call it painting rather than drawing.

I’m often asked which brand of colored pencil I prefer. There are so many brands on the market these days, that it’s a little hard to choose. I choose the brand according to the piece I’m creating, for each brand is formulated differently and produces a different look. Today’s blog focuses on the brands I use the most, and why.

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colored pencil drawing

My favorite green bottle drawn with Prismacolor pencils. Great for glassy, shiny things!

1. Prismacolor is a popular brand of colored pencil. It has been around for more than 40 years, and has the largest range of colors (now up to 150–of course, I carry them all in my studio!). Prismacolor has a thick lead pencil that’s richly pigmented, with a high wax content. When used with pressure, it produces a heavy application of color that can completely cover the paper surface. It actually resembles the look of paint. You can add colors together and they’ll blend like paint would. This technique is called burnishing. I use this technique anytime I want to create a shiny surface (glass, vinyl, ceramic) or brightly colored things (fruit, flowers, polished wood). This heavy, waxy approach also allows for scratching details out with an X-Acto knife. I do this for little lines that would be impossible to draw, like veins in leaves and little hairs in fur.

Prismacolor also can be used lightly, for a softer approach. This technique, which is called layering, is nice for creating texture and backgrounds. I use this for more porous surfaces (clothing, skin tones, fabric) or for animal drawing. There are some things to watch for when using Prismacolor. Due to the heavy wax content, they have a condition called “wax bloom.” This is when the pigment and the wax separate on your drawing, causing the image to look cloudy or hazy. This can be remedied by lightly spraying the drawing with a shot of fixative when you’re finished.

colored pencil techniques

Spring flowers drawn in Derwent Coloursoft pencils on white suede board. It looks like pastel!

2. Coloursoft is another brand I use. I love it for the soft, pastel-like look it gives my drawings, especially when I use it on suede board. Coloursoft pencils are clay based, so they don’t have the heavy wax feel of Prismacolor. Because of the different formulation, I don’t use them for drawing shiny things. They won’t burnish like Prismacolor. But, I LOVE them for creating my florals, for they blend together like pastel. If you look at the example above, you can clearly see the different applications, and the looks they create. These come in 72 colors.

Colored pencil art

This Panther (in progress) is being created with the new Derwent Colored Drawing Pencils

3. Derwent now has a new line that I enjoy as well, called Derwent Colored Drawing Pencils. The pencils come in 24 colors, and are even softer than the Coloursoft line. All of the colors are earth tones, and they’re marvelous for drawing animals, portraits, and nature scenes.

There are many more brands as well. I’ve probably used all of them over the years. I can honestly say that all of the big brands are good. I’ve enjoyed using Lyra, Bruynzeel, Faber Castell, and Caron D’Ache. I suggest trying as many different brands as you can, for every artist has a “look” they’re trying to achieve. Colored pencil is NOT one brand fits all!
Have fun and experiment! That’s the greatest part of being an artist! We love our toys!

Have a colorful week!


Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond

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